The Gordian Knot & The Interactive TV Solution, Part II

The Gordian Knot is a legend associated with Alexander the Great. It was prophesied by the Phrygian oracle that whoever was able to untie the "knot" would become the king of Asia. In 333 BC, wintering at Gordium, Alexander the Great attempted to untie the knot. When he could find no end to the knot, to unbind it, he sliced it in half with a stroke of his sword, producing the required ends (the so-called Alexandrian Solution) and fulfilling the prophecy by conquering known Asia.

Last year there was a slew of solutions presented by the major broadcast and cable networks to unravel the commercial conundrum: TV viewers don't like to watch commercials, or at least not non-engaging ones, will do anything to avoid them and yet they must be sustained to provide the fuel by which the free TV industry is powered --$70 billion worth.

Some attempts at unraveling the knot:

ABC's "pop ups" on props in shows that clicked upon would balloon to full screen
CW's "content wraps" that weaved products into short two or three minute video clips
CW's "cwickies"
Fox's "Oleg" animated celebrity spoofs
NBC's live commercial introductions into "The Tonight Show"
MTV's "sponsor-branded clips segments" bridging programming and commercials
Turner Broadcasting's "bitcoms," or comedy shorts that lead into commercial breaks

Somehow these aforementioned examples seemed like the Emperor's new clothes or the latest approach to commercial haberdashery, ones that the TV viewer saw through, activating their remote control (fast-forwarded or channel surfed) or just simply disengaged.

This year's network attempts to get viewers to pay attention to ads instead of fast forwarding through them or disapparating from the TV room seem as disingenuous: minishows or mini-series that extend the length of commercial pods with salient infomercial characteristics, live commercials haloed by late night program hosts, short video clips that require viewers to go to multiple platforms (TV and broadband) to ascertain sequential story lines, lynch pinning brand into story (inclusive of a slew of prominent camera cameos) and  significantly reducing the number of commercials and promotional announcements in freshmen programs to encourage viewer engagement - a rationale based upon the hypothesis that TV watchers select programs not because of content but rather the number of non-program interruptions.

Maybe we should take Alexander's approach. If the traditional tactic of trying to fool the TV viewer into engaging with a marketer's message is not working. then maybe we should deploy the sword or technology in today's parlance. Interactive TV applications hold the promise of engaging those consumers to whom the message is most relevant. Opting in through telescoping features, requests for interaction, microsites, long-form video, addressability, dynamic ad insertion and blind matching these applications with datamining (lifestyle) and subscriber television viewing usage could solve the riddle to gain the kingdom



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